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Unformatted text preview: Women in Lysistrata and Women of Ancient Greece If one were to read Aristophanes? Lysistrata, he or she would get an interesting look at life in Ancient Greece, but he or she would also be deceived. Women, at the time Lysistrata was written, had very little to no power. The roles of women consisted of taking care of the family, the husband?s desires, and the home. Ancient Greece made sure that women had almost no power or property, due to the belief that women were incapable of tasks that were of major importance or decision. Aristophanes? role portrayal of women was quite contrary to the current social norms for he gave women power and control. Lysistrata shows that women were cunning, wise, and fully capable of taking on large responsibilities. Aristophanes? comedy is a very strong contrast to Ancient Greece?s practices. According to James C. Thompson, Ancient Greece restricted the tasks a woman could perform to three basic things: taking care of the house, family, and husband. In fact, it was illegal for a woman to do any business involving anything that was more than the amount of money it took to feed a family for five or six days. Women could only attain property through three ways: a gift, a dowry, or an inheritance (Thompson 1-4). The dowry was a strange circumstance of a woman?s ownership of property. A dowry, usually money or some other transportable item, was given to a bride?s groom. If the man divorced his wife, he had to return the dowry as well. So, the wife did not technically own her dowry, but rather was her ?marriage insurance.? But, if her husband died, she could keep the dowry and stay with her new family, or she could return to her birth family. If the wife died with out a male child, the dowry was returned to her birth family, but if she died with a son, the father could keep the dowry. A woman?s inheritance was also a unique circumstantial concept as James C. Thompson explains. A woman could not farm or continue her father?s land and work, so it was important for families to birth a male heir. The death of a family?s name was usually looked upon as worse than physical death. A woman could not inherit any of her father?s estate if she had any brothers. The inheritance was then passed on to her at an earlier time, usually in the form of a dowry. It never equaled that of which her brother would receive. If the family had no son, the daughter inherited the land, but was usually married off to a willing man who would then become both son and son-in-law. If she were already married, she could be forced to divorce and remarry a willing male. So, in truth, a woman never really owned anything, unless it was given to her as gifts, which were usually personal items. Women were necessary for a man to produce legitimate children and heirs. Other than producing children and taking care of the household, men did not see much importance for women. She was expected to stay out of sight if her husband had guests over. An old saying said that the best wife was the one least talked about, whether it be good or bad. Aristophanes? portrayal of women in his comedy, Lysistrata, is a total social reversal. Women are given traits that were not normal to people at the time. The character, Lysistrata, displays cunning and critical thinking skills that leave the men at a total loss as of what to do. When the women use the tactic of bringing forth the statue of Reconciliation before the men, the women display their newly found power. Since Reconciliation is a statue of a naked woman, the men only agonize more that they could not obtain sexual gratification from their female counterparts. Lysistrata knows what she is doing when she brings out Reconciliation. It is as if to say, ?Men, you will have our bodies, if only you find peace?. Her mocking swings more power towards the women?s? cause. Another interesting trait is the women?s organization. They manage to plan out each detail, such as how they manage to take over the shrine and treasury. Also, the uprising of women across nations is quite a feat of organization. Men possessed an admirable skill in organizing war, but something discreet like an international vow of abstinence, takes much more in terms of organization, especially if millions of men are not to know about it. The most important characteristic Aristophanes gives the women in Lysistrata is their ability to actually teach the men. Lysistrata poses several questions to the men when she says, ?Why then, with these many noble deeds to think of, do you fight each other? Why don?t you stop this villainy? Why not make peace? Tell me, what prevents it?? (Aristophanes 1176-1179). Essentially, she opens the eyes of the men that war only makes war, as peace makes peace. She continues to add reasons to why they should be at peace, such as when she states, ?Don?t you remember how the Sparten Pericleidas came here once as a suppliant, and sitting at our alter, all pale and fear in his crimson cloak, begged us for an army?? (Aristophanes 1154-1157) or when she says, ?Don?t think I?m going to let you Athenians off. Don?t you remember how the Spartans came in arms when you wearing the rough, sheepskin cloak of slaves and slew the host of Thessalians?? (Aristophanes 111166-1170). Lysistrata is telling the men that each one of them is being foolish for, in truth, each nation should be in each other?s debt. The men are blind to this fact, but the women are able to shed light upon their ignorance. The women teach the men of insight, reasoning, and logic. Previously, the men had only wanted to make war, go to war, and win war. By saying all this, Lysistrata brings a new idea to the men: peace. Though it is initially rejected by the men, Lysistrata also reveals their stubbornness to make the necessary amends for peace. The men believe war is the only answer, but the women best them, by taking away their means to satisfy the primal instinct to make love. The men are also stubborn in the sense they do not want to give in to the women, who are not supposed to have power. Lysistrata, in its own way, is an example of a strange form of women?s rights. Though it was intended to be a comedy, it brought forth a new light on the topic of women, saying that women are fully capable in thinking and making critical decisions. Aristophanes? Lysistrata shows women opposite of what they were in Ancient Greece?s male-dominated society, saying that they have the ability to do everything that men could. Today, a reader can see a definite contrast between two worlds: the fantasy world of Aristophanes? Lysistrata, and the real world of Ancient Greece. Works Cited Aristophanes. Lysistrata (411): 1-33. Rpt. In The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Ed. Maynard Mack. New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1997. 466- 499. Hurley, Gary. ?Discussion Questions.? World Literature: From the Ancient World to the Renaissance. (2004). 5 Oct. 2004. Thompson, James C. ?Women in Athens.? Women in Ancient Greece. (2004). 4 Oct. 2004. Thompson, James C. ?Women and Property in Athens.? Women in Ancient Greece. (2004). 4 Oct. 2004....
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This note was uploaded on 06/10/2008 for the course CAMS 025 taught by Professor Shaw-colyer,eugen during the Summer '07 term at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
- Summer '07
- Lysistrata, Lysistrata, Child, Reconciliation, Woman C